Article Overview:    In Part II, "The First Secret Of Vigilance," the children face a puzzle.  What was the gift the Stranger brought to the Land of Poverty?  How could it help rid the land of the Beast of Terror?  See if you can unravel the secret, the first of three the Sentinel of Vigilance brings to the Land of Prosperity.   (Recommended that if you haven't yet read Part I, click this link.  After reading Part I, return to Part II.  Go to Part I of V   Go to Part II of V   Go to Part III of V     Go to Part IV of V   Go to Part V of V


Sunday--December 21, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 830
The Legend Of Christmas Vigilance--Part II of V
"The First Secret Of Vigilance"

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Dec. 21, 2003 -- "No one knew how long the Beast of Holiday Terror ruled the land," said the Sentinel of Vigilance, sweeping his strong, calloused hand in a wide arc over the children's transfixed faces.

It was the second night The Sentinel of Vigilance told stories to the children

       It was the second night of the StoryTelling.  Earlier, as the night before, the young ones poured into the Great Hall, deposited their boots, coats, scarves and mittens, drank heartily of the steaming hot chocolate, tasted of the candies and cookies, romped in the Sentinel's chair, then took their posts in a circle awaiting his words.
      "Everyone was afraid of the Beast," said the Sentinel.   "He sat on a pile of rocks in the center of the Land of Poverty, as it was known at the time, hissing and flapping his bat-like wings, frightening the children, the parents, grandparents and loved ones who scooped up their children and ran into their houses whenever he appeared."
      "What did he look like, Sentinel?  The Beast...tell us."

"On the day I first saw The Beast, he had red coal eyes that burned and smoked...."

       The children hugged one another, anticipating the scary nature of the words that would follow.    "Oh, he was ever so sneaky and could change his outward appearance but he  always was very, very mean looking.    On the day I first saw him, he had red coal eyes that burned and smoked.   On cold days, steam rose from his nostrils located at the end of a long snout twice as wide as that of the fattest pig you have ever seen.   His skin was made of scales, heavy, thick black plates that grew patches of green, slimy fungus and gave off a stench that made all the people put their hands to their face."
       "Ahhhhgggghhhh..." proclaimed one little boy, standing and holding his nose.  "I bet he didn't take a bath ever...ever..."
      "No," replied the Sentinel, smiling.   "He was a very bad, bad Beast.   He would open his huge wings and whip the coldest winds upon the village, even in the summer.   If a flower popped out of the ground, he would swoop down and rip it from the earth with his long, sharp talons.  He wanted no one to be happy.  He wanted only sadness and despair to rule the Land."
        "He was mean.   A mean Beast!"  A little girl with a red bow in her hair shook her finger at the air.  "I bet he made everyone mad, being so mean."
        The Sentinel reached up and waxed his beard with his hand, his eyes scanning the children's rapt faces.

"The Beast wanted sadness and despair to rule the land..."

       "Oh, he was, Little One.  He was the meanest creature on earth.   He would fly over the Land and his scales would fall like rocks from the sky when he itched himself with his sharp claws.   People ducked and ran to avoid being hit by them.    When they went in search of wood for fires, the Beast would pop out of the trees and yell 'Boo!' and make them run and drop their axes and saws.   And, at night, the Beast would call the wolves to come and howl and bay at the doors of the houses.   Babies cried in mother's arms, children were afraid to shut their eyes, and mothers and fathers bolted their doors and huddled in the cold, listening to the wolves scratching at their doors."
        "Scaring little babies!    That is awful!"
        "It was," continued the Sentinel.   "There was only sadness in the sky.   The sun never seemed to shine.   It was wet and damp all the time, and the chill seemed to wrap itself around all the people like a wet old blanket.   But the Beast loved it, for people were afraid of him, intimidated by his presence, and, worst of all complacent to challenge him for he seemed so big and powerful over them."
         "How did they make him go away?  What happened?"  A boy with freckles addressed the question to the Sentinel.  
         "One day a Stranger came into the village.  No one knows from where.   Some say from the North, others say from the South, still others the West and East.    He slipped past the Beast, for no one dared come to the village for fear the Beast would hiss hot fire at them.   The earth was scorched by the Beast's breath, and anyone who tried to leave the village never got far.  It was as though the Beast could hear everyone's footsteps, and if they started to leave, the Beast would fly in front of them and bully them back, threatening them with his talons and wings.   So, the people were quite surprised to see the Stranger."
       "What did he look like?  Was it you, Sentinel?  Was he very old with a white beard and lots of wrinkles?"

"One day a Stranger came into the village..."

        The Sentinel smiled at the young girl who posed the question.   "No, he was very young and very handsome.   The people knew immediately he was a Stranger because he was smiling and happy, and they were all sad and frowning.   And his eyes danced.   The people of the village had long since had the light in their eyes dimmed and dulled by the Beast.   The Hope and Belief they once had that the Beast would go away had left them.   They were resigned to live their lives without the sunlight, joy and happiness of life.  The Stranger's eyes were like Christmas trees, full of life and vigor.  His eyes smiled from within."

"The Stranger's eyes were like Christmas trees,  full of life and vigor..."

        "He was, maybe, Santa Clause?"
        "In a way, he was, Little One.   Anyone who brings the gift of joy and happiness to children is certainly Santa's helper.   But he brought the greatest of all gifts to the Land of Poverty."
        "What was that, Sentinel?"
        "He brought something that had been lost long ago by the parents and grandparents and loved ones.  He brought them back the gift of Hope and Belief."
       "Did he carry a sack with gifts wrapped up?"
       "Well," Sentinel said, wagging his finger toward the Little One who had asked the question, "he brought three gifts to the people, just like many others bring three gifts to people seeking a better way of life."
       "What were they?   What were they?"  The children pressed forward.
       "Tonight, I will tell you about only one of them.  Tomorrow night, I'll tell you about the other, and, the next night, I'll unwrap the final present he brought.  First, what do you think was in one of the gifts he gave the people that night to rid the land of the Beast of Terror?"
       "A spear, to kill the Beast!"
       "A sword to slay him!"
       "Armor, so the people could fight him without getting burned or hit by the Beast's scales!"

"The Beast thrives on revenge, hate and battle..."

       The Sentinel smiled and leaned back in the Great Chair.   "No, my Little Ones.   The Beast would have liked that.   Violence begets violence, and the Beast thrives on the food of revenge, hate and battle.    The Stranger brought something far more powerful than a sword or spear."
       "What, Sentinel?  What?  What was it?
       "It was a puzzle."
       "A puzzle?"
       The Sentinel cocked his head and placed his chin in the cup of his hand, offering the children a curious face.   "I am going to make a sentence with the Letters of Vigilance.  You try and guess what the gift was that was hidden within it.  Are you all ready?"
         "Yes!  Yes!"
         The Sentinel took a deep breath as the children's anticipation grew.    "The Stranger gathered all the parents, grandparents, children, uncles, aunts, cousins and loved ones into one of the houses.   He told them they must uncover and discover for themselves what it would take to rid the Land of Poverty of the Beast of Terror.   He took from his knapsack a packet of letters and spread them on the floor.  Then he arranged the following sentence."
        The Sentinel reached down beside the chair and spilled onto the wooden, warm floor a bagful of letters.   He leaned down and began to arrange them into words.  The children scooted closer, peering over one another's shoulders to watch the unveiling of the sentence.  When he was finished the sentence read:  "Cee Our Unity Repels A Great Enemy."
        "Do you see the answer, Little Ones?"
        The little boy with freckled laughed.  "Sentinel, you goofed!"
        "I did," boomed the Sentinel, smiling as he sat upright and scratched his forehead as though he might have erred.
        "You misspelled one of the words!"
        "Which one?"
        "See.  You used a 'C' instead of a 'S.'"
        "Are you sure?" The Sentinel poked his finger into his cheek and winked.
        "Is Cee part of the puzzle, Sentinel?" asked the little girl with the red ribbon glistening in her hair.
        "Look carefully.  What does the sentence mean?" 

"Cee Our Unity Repels A Great Enemy"

       A hand shot up from the shy girl who was swallowed by the fleece of the Great Chair.
       "Yes, Little One?"
       "It means that everyone has to work together to get the Beast to go away!"
       "Yes, that's part of the message.  But, is there something more.  What was the gift the words gave the people."
       Another Little One, who had been studying the words silently, began to jump and down.   "I see it, Sentinel.  I see the gift.  It's kind of hidden in the words, right?"
       "That's right.   Everyone look at the words again. And, if you know the answer, don't yell it out yet.   Let everyone discover the gift for themselves.
       All eyes fell upon them:  "Cee Our Unity Repels A Great Enemy!"
       "I see it too," shouted another Little One.  "And, I see it also," chimed yet another
       "Okay," said the Sentinel.  If you know the answer, whisper it to the one next to you. Share the secret, for the greatest gift you have is the one you give to someone who doesn't have what you have."
        Soon, the room was buzzing with whispers.   Faces beamed.  The firelight danced off the children's rosy, excited faces.
        "Yes, you, Little One.  Come up and show us all what the first of the three gifts were the Stranger gave the people."
       The shy girl who had first noticed the secret message threaded her way through arms and legs of the other children, careful not to step on a finger or hand as she picked her way up to the Sentinel.
       "Show us all the answer."
       The girl knelt before the letters and removed the two "e's" from the word Cee, the "o" and "r" from Our, the "n-i-t-y" from Unity, the "e-p-e-l-s" from Repels.  She left the "A" and pushed away the "r-e-a-t" from Great and the "n-e-m-y"  from Enemy.
        "C-O-U-R-A-G-E," said the shy Little One, her Voice clear and crisp, unwavering as she spelled out the secret.   "The Stranger gave the people Courage, is that it, Sentinel?  Courage?"

"The first of the Great Principles of Vigilance is Courage..."

       "Exactly, Little One.  The first of the Great Principles of Vigilance is Courage.  The people had forgotten how to have it.  Courage is the sum of individual beliefs, Little Ones.   We all have some Courage, but when we come together as one, we have an unlimited amount.   You know, when you are afraid, you can feel brave for a little while.  But, after a while, you start to feel frightened again.  Well, Courage comes in packages.  When we start to feel afraid, it means our Courage is starting to leak.   Like a bucket with a hole in it.  That's why we run to our mothers or fathers or grandmothers to feel their strong arms.   We need their Courage to help give us Courage.   The more we are all Courageous, the more Courage we all have.  Courage is a well from which we all need to draw from its strength.   If you are afraid Little One, and your brother or sister hugs you and stands with you against your fear, do you feel more afraid or less afraid?"
        "I feel less afraid, Sentinel."
        "And, if all the children and all the parents and grandparents stand together, and hold onto one another against Fear, do you think Fear has a chance?"

"The more we are all Courageous, the more Courage we have..."

        "No, Sentinel.  Fear would be afraid of Courage if Courage stood up long enough."
       "That's exactly, right, Little One.  The Land of Poverty had lost its memory.   It lost the belief in Unity, that together the parts are bigger than any Beast, any Fear.   The sentence, Cee Our Unity Repels A Great Enemy means that if we all stand up against the Beast, he will not win.   His great fiery breath, his snorting nose, his sharp jagged teeth, his curled talons, his fungus-laden scales, his dark shadow over us, will be repelled.  It will be pushed away.    But only if we call upon our Courage.  If we ask for at least One Percent more Courage within us than the Fear of things outside or inside us, we can defeat the Beast of Terror.  We can drive him from our Land of Poverty and turn it into a Land of Prosperity."
         The freckled boy raised his hand.

"Courage by itself did not drive the Beast away..."

        "Did Courage drive the Beast away, Sentinel?   When the people remembered that gift of Courage the Stranger brought, did the Beast run away?"
         "No," the Sentinel said.   "There were two more gifts yet to be given that would insure the Beast would be banished.  Courage was only the first of the three."
         "What were the other two?"

"Tonight dream about Courage..."

        "Ah," said the Sentinel.   "That will come tomorrow.  But, for tonight, when you go home and dream, dream about Courage.  Dream about how all of you, all of us, together, can be so much stronger than we can by ourselves.   Dream of how your Courage comes from within, and its power and strength depends on others sharing your Courage."
         "We will, Sentinel.  We will."
         "And tomorrow, we'll learn about the second gift from the Stranger."
         "Will it be a puzzle too?" asked the Shy One.
         "We'll see," said the Sentinel.  "We'll see!"   
                                    Go to Part III 

(For print-friendly version if Part II, click here)

Dec. 20--The Legend Of Christmas Vigilance: Part I of V

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